FAST COMPANY (director/writer: David Cronenberg; screenwriter: from the story by Alan Treen/Courtney Smith/Phil Savath; cinematographer: Mark Irwin; editor: Ronald Sanders; music: Fred Mollin; cast: William Smith (Lonnie ‘Lucky Man’ Johnson), Claudia Jennings (Sammy), John Saxon (Phil Adamson), Nicholas Campbell (Billy ‘The Kid’ Brocker), Don Francks (Elder), Cedric Smith (Gary ‘The Blacksmith’ Black), Judy Foster (Candy), George Buza (Meatball), Robert Haley (P.J.); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Michael Lebowitz/Peter O’Brian/Phil Savath/Courtney Smith; Blue Underground; 1979)
“An enjoyable pedestrian drive-in B-film about drag racing.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
David Cronenberg (“Rabid”/”The Brood”/”Shivers”/”Crash”) leaves his usual arthouse horror genre filmmaking to make an enjoyable pedestrian drive-in B-film about drag racing and the corporate sponsors that care more about selling their product than winning–as winning is too expensive and they can still fully advertise their product by being just near the top. The heavy-handed plot is an uninspiring routine good guys vs. bad guys narrative, but the racing scenes are formidable as to the details concerning the machines, the accurate driver lingo and the exciting presentation of the skills involved in maintaining the cars for racing. It turns out the sport is Cronenberg’s secret passion and he pours his knowledge into the racing strip scenes like few other speedway films have ever done. It’s adapted by Cronenberg, Courtney Smith and Phil Savath from the story by Alan Treen. There were legal fights over its distribution rights when the American distributor went bankrupt, making the film rarely seen in the States until this Blue Underground DVD–which should be a heavenly addition for Cronenberg freaks.
The FastCo drag racing team is sponsored by the imperious corporate giant (a gasoline additive) and the team is supervised by the sleazy and corrupt FastCo rep Phil Adamson (John Saxon). The boys race fuelers and funny cars (they run on a mixture of nitro and alcohol), with the idea of not only winning but selling their sponsors product as they tour the racing circuits for races that are over in a blink of an eye. The star driver is drag racing pioneer, Lonnie ‘Lucky Man’ Johnson (William Smith), an aging legend on the circuit and much envied by the other racers as a womanizer, skilled driver and a showman. Lonnie’s protégé is a greenhorn hotshot kid, Billy ‘The Kid’ Brocker (Nicholas Campbell), who rides the funny car. The loyal chief mechanic is old-timer Elder (Don Francks) and his assistant is the simple-minded but friendly P. J. (Robert Haley). The team’s main rival is the small-time ambitious outfit, without a major corporate sponsor, that features driver Gary ‘The Blacksmith’ Black (Cedric Smith) and his Neanderthal and corruptible mechanic Meatball (George Buza).
The plot has the reptilian Phil stabbing everyone in the back with his shakedown deals with drag strip owners and then of his driver Lonnie, whom he detests. After Lonnie crashes his fueler, Phil gets the front office of FastCo to cancel rebuilding another car and then makes up lies that Lonnie is a drunk and is losing his skills, which gets his contract cancelled.
It builds to where the good guy team has to steal their own car back from the bad guys, and to win one against corporate greed and racetrack foul play without corporate sponsorship in the big final race.
Claudia Jennings, the former Playboy pinup, in her last role before her untimely death, plays Lonnie’s most steady broad. Judy Foster plays Candy, the fired Miss Fast Co girl, who refused to put out to save her job, but who has no problem putting out for Billy. The players all have casual sex, in the softcore exploitation vein, except for Phil and Meatball, the film’s heavies who no one would cry over if they went up in flames for their hellish behavior.
REVIEWED ON 2/16/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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